Multimodal Mondays: Invention and Embracing Process and Product

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147107_pastedImage_3.pngToday's guest blogger is Kim Haimes-Korn. (See end of post for bio.)

We often think about multimodality in terms of the end result – the products that students can produce through multimodal composition. But I have found interesting ways to use multimodal composition for invention as well. Images are great for brainstorming and getting students to see things in different ways than they have seen them before. For example, I often ask students to use key words to conduct image searches that expand their ideas on a subject or brainstorm on research projects.  

Recently, I was teaching a unit on digital stories. (The full assignment is explained in detail in one of my earlier posts on Digital Storytelling where I provide the theoretical framework for the overall assignment.) In this post, however, I concentrate on a new, earlier step in this assignment that engages students in multimodality as part of the process.

This early assignment gives students practice in composing through images and digital rhetoric and provides invention space where they can try out and select their best possible story ideas before fully engaging in the assignment. It is at this time that students are coming to understand the genre of the digital story and trying to figure out exactly what story they want to tell.


  • To teach composing skills with images and the ways visual, rhetorical choices impact communicated meaning.
  • To introduce invention strategies to engage students in a full range of composing processes.
  • To practice skills such as selection, abstraction and summary.
  • To understand audience awareness and engagement through peer response.


Assignment Steps

Step 1: Have students read the resources on Digital Storytelling. Discuss purpose and which stories are worth telling and which stories they want to tell. I encourage them to look around their environment and lives to find stories. I offer the following prompts:

  • think about things that you have noticed in your everyday life
  • think about your own past and ideas that have stuck with you
  • think about the ways people behave,
  • think about your ideas and worldviews
  • think about your relationships to others
  • think about things that are confusing
  • think about things that feel clear
  • think about how things relate to other things
  • think about people you know
  • think about what you imagine
  • think about what you know and believe
  • let the stories find you

Step 2: Next, students create a brainstorm list of at least 10 ideas for stories that incorporate the expectations discussed in the video: 7 Elements in 4 Minutes. I refer them to composing techniques to create 10 interesting, representative images that match their brainstorm list –each representing a different story idea. They don’t have to tell the whole story but should suggest something about its direction – a preview or peek into the idea or ideas.

Step 3: Then, they choose their top 5 story/image/ideas to post on a gallery page to share with their classmates. They give each one a working title and a short paragraph -- that gives readers an idea of the story and possible perspectives. I have them include why they think this is a story that needs to be told and the point of view they are considering.

Step 4: Students share story/images with classmates for peer response. Students use this session to talk with a potential audience about what might engage them and to select a story that their audience might want to hear. Audience members also pose questions that give authors opportunities to elaborate and expand their ideas in purposeful ways. I use Lambert’s first three points (the others come later) that encourage students to engage in 1) point of view, 2) dramatic question and 3) emotional content.

Step 5: Once students choose story (with the help of their peers) they move to a storyboarding phase. I supply a blank storyboarding template that engages them in the planning and arranging their chosen story.

Step 6: After students complete the full draft of the digital stories, they embed them in their blogs along with a purposeful context statement that includes links to their invention stories and storyboards


When I first came up with this activity, I thought it would just act as an invention piece that might not be part of the project. In some ways, it turned out to be interesting in and of itself. Students liked the broad sweep that showed several stories, defining moments and ideas that were part of their identity and worldview. As I reviewed through them, I also found them engaging, and I realized that I would like to incorporate this as part of their final projects as well.  This gives their audience a sense of their processes should they follow the links and reveals an interesting series of story possibilities.

In addition this activity teaches students how to use images to brainstorm and how to create representative images. It also teaches the valuable skills of summary, selection and abstraction. The peer response early on in the process allows authors to gage audience engagement before they enter the production phase of this multimodal project. This is just one of the many ways we might consider using multimodal composition as invention – for both process and product.

Check out some student samples of this assignment:

Guest blogger Kim Haimes-Korn is a Professor in the English Department at Kennesaw State University. Kim’s teaching philosophy encourages dynamic learning, critical digital literacies and focuses on students’ powers to create their own knowledge through language and various “acts of composition.” She likes to have fun every day, return to nature when things get too crazy and think deeply about way too many things. She loves teaching. It has helped her understand the value of amazing relationships and boundless creativity. You can reach Kim at or visit her website Acts of Composition.

About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.